Tag Archives: keepingitpeel

Keeping it Peel: Remembering John, a decade on

25 Oct

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Today – Saturday 25th October – marks the tenth anniversary of the day we lost John Peel, who, in the days before 6Music, Spotify, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, YouTube and a myriad of music blogs from the shinily corporate to the shoddily pirate, showed the discerning music enthusiast a planet of sound quite often far removed from that on the daytime airwaves but also one that often was a window onto future popular taste.

Although eclectic radio shows are now another genre on yr TuneIn app, Peel almost invented the concept, with the aim of introducing the curious listener to new artists, bands and genres outside the traditional comfort zone. Similarly, Peel would seemingly be constantly reinventing the content of his shows: discarding prog rock for punk rock, snubbing indie guitars for dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass, irking the purists with his ambivalence towards The Stone Roses and Springsteen and his love of happy hardcore. Whilst apologising for being a slightly podgy middle-aged man who sometimes let studio technology get the better of him.

Like his beloved Fall, always different, always the same.

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Many forget that Peel – in his later years and Home Truths days often considered The Greatest Living Englishman or something of a National Treasure – was actually quite a man of the world. As well as his celebrated night time Radio One programme, he also recorded programmes specifically made for German, Finnish, Austrian and Dutch audiences while additionally recording for Armed Forces network BFBS and also for the BBC World Service. He also cut his broadcasting teeth on KLIF, KOMA and KMEN in the US, the latter of which – despite sounding like a superhero legion or a niche magazine – was actually a radio station in San Bernardino, Californ-i-a. And as well as being broadcasted in various areas of the globe, Peel also played music from bands with unpronounceable names from Zimbabwe, China, Japan, Belgium and Wales.

He even played a Hindi cover of an ABBA song, which combined his love of songs in foreign tongues with his love of Eurovision.

With such a global reach, it may come as no surprise that there are pockets of Peel-respecting indiedom in places such as Yogyakarta, Indonesia or Chonburi province, Thailand.

Here he is a little closer to home, in Germany, in a TV special called John Peel’s Autobahn Blues, where he drives his ageing Merc between various German cities, visiting record shops, radio stations and even meeting up with Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle.




Out in the US Peel does have a vague cult following – having “broken” some American artists that could have stayed on the fringes of parochial sub-stardom if not for the exposure garnered by a few plays or indeed a session on his show, Nirvana and The White Stripes being just two better-known examples. This special – for “Big Apple” station WNYC – attempts to introduce the John Peel Archive as the hoardings of “Britain’s Supercollector”, with Tom from the Archive itself and Sheila (Ravenscroft – “The Pig”) on the blower and Lee Ranaldo out of Sonic Youth on hand to reminisce over recording various Peel Sessions.

* John Peel’s Record Collection on WNYC (2012) (stream or download)

Further afield, as well as the World Service programmes, Peel disciples got a treat when the man himdself turned up at an Auckland radio station when on holiday in those parts in 2002. New Zealand music, most notably The Go-Betweens and The Chills, had been given an international boost by Peel’s patronage, and luckily one listener taped the whole thing for posterity.

Our hero even got to visit Russia in the dying days of the Soviet Union to reveal the local music scene to be somewhat more than balalaikas and mulleted Deep Purple impersonators. The result was recorded for Radio One, and is now a fascinating document of Russian music culture before Putin and Pussy Riot.

* John Peel’s Russia (download only)

John’s linguistic prowess was – by his own admission – not impressive, but he usually made an effort to pronounce the names of at least the European bands and their non-English song titles that arrived on a variety of formats at Broadcasting House. German seems to be his most convincing attempt, oddly the same as Mark E. Smith of The Fall who claimed he himself learnt some rudimentary German in order to make sure the band got paid during his many tours of the country. It was a while before John discovered the meaning of Yo La Tengo, although that was only because Andy Kershaw, who apparently boasts a Spanish A-Level, told him.

Nonetheless, he often joked that his popularity in Holland came from the fact that the name Peel is a homophone for the male appendage in Dutch.

Additionally he regretted not being able to speak or understand Welsh, despite having a soft spot for Welsh-speaking bands such as Melys, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Ahnreven  Anghreven Anngrvhin Gryff Rhys.

Japanese acts were also popular at Peel Acres, with John playing music by Cornelius, Shonen Knife, Melt-Banana and Polysics, as well as the inimitable Frank Chickens (who actually got a TV SHOW out of being Peel favourites, here’s an episode with Frank Sidebottom AND John Cooper Clarke .

* Frank Chickens Peel Session (download only)

Regrettably, it was a foreign trip to Peru that was robbed us all of the great man’s talents forever ten years ago to this very day, but thankfully we have the tapes, the uploads, YouTube, the Peel Wiki, The John Peel Archive  and Keeping It Peel to help us remember… along with a plethora of tweeters, bloggers and specialist radio stations.

And finally, here’s a smattering of the truly international world service provided by Mr. John Peel, yours to take away (apart from the video, obvs):

Firstly, the authentic Cold War Radio experience replicated, a Russian shortwave recording of a 1987 BBC World Service broadcast cassette, with godawful reception, bits edited out and everything:

* John Peel Show on BFBS Forces Radio (mysteriously undated)

* Peel on Rock Radio, Finland (1987)

* John Peel on Radio Mafia, Finland (1991) [may contain festive references]

* John Peel on Radio Eins, Germany (2003)

* Peel Tribute, Bayern Radio 2, Germany (2014)

Gone, but not forgotten.

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Tomorrow is the day we’re Keeping it Peel

24 Oct

 

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You know what to do.

Sheffield Peel: Part I – Pulp at Peel Acres

24 Oct

Well today is Keeping It Peel day, the anniversary of what some refer to as “the day the music died” – the day John Peel shuffled off his mortal coil (and no, I won’t make that 4AD-related quip again) – the day a lot of us abandoned Radio One for good. Well, at least after the tribute programmes that is.

We at We Love All That Towers  are not averse to a bit of calculated punnery, and so while our title cocks a sly wink (or what ever it is) at Joe Cocker’s 1982 album – and that the gravel-voiced Sheffielder recorded a Peel Session in 1969 – it is another Cocker that we wish to feature in today’s homage to Mr. Ravenscroft Sr.

Possibly the most determined band in the history of “alternative” music – Pulp, fronted by the inimitable Jarvis Cocker – took approximately SIXTEEN YEARS from their formation as “Arabicus Pulp” in 1978 to their first Top 40 hit with Do You Remember The First Time and the MTV Europe favourite Babies, the forerunners of Common People, Mis-shapes, Sorted For Es and Wizz, Disco 2000 and the rest – coinciding with the love-it-or-hate-it Britpop explosion the following year, the year from which our first audio takeaway is extracted.

Clipping filched from the more-than-thorough Pulp Wiki

Jarvis was always a huge fan of John Peel, and John was an ardent supporter of his band’s music, despite their persistent abject failure to develop anything more than a small cult following during Pulp’s first fifteen years or so. FIFTEEN YEARS. That’s the recording career of The Beatles PLUS the recording career of The Smiths. But without the hits or the fans or even the favourable reviews. Yet, ever a champion of the underdog (see Dandelion Records!) Peel kept playing the records and in turn Pulp kept putting them out.

So, at the height of their fame, instead of chumming up to the likes of Steve Wright or his cohorts on daytime Radio One, Jarvis and drummer Nick Banks (nephew of legendary England keeper Gordon Banks, footy fans) visited Peel Acres (one of the first musicians to do so… after David Gedge of The Wedding Present and “a Dutch band“, allegedly) and got a guided tour of the great man’s gaff before airing both highlights of the then-forthcoming “Different Class” (UK listeners’ exclusive first chance to hear the album… remember this was in the years before music blogs and online album leaks) and an unearthing of Pulp’s first recorded Peel Session – from 1981! , much to the embarrassment of Peelie who admits he’d presumed the band had recorded umpteen sessions for his programme since then, but evidently not (none at all in fact, between that ’81 session and 1993). Jarvis also admits to recording Peel’s shows off the radio and tries to find some Half Japanese on the hallowed record shelves. Björk’s house, breasts (in general, not Björk’s), Glastonbury, Scunthorpe baths and Jarvis’ estranged dad’s beard (and Peel’s) are also discussed, while early on it is revealed that Peel Acres is home to a dog called Bernard (after Mr. Sumner, perhaps?).

The genuine mutual appreciation – far removed the usual smug fakery often heard in popstar-meets-established-music-broadcaster that was par for the course in Britpop-blunted Britain – is evident, and shortly following Peel’s untimely death on this day eight years ago Jarvis went on to record a moving tribute to our hero which you can find on this old post I wrote when the Pulp frontman went round the countryside recording sounds for the National Trust. The clicky-clicky bit is at the end, and the last time I checked it, it still worked.

Anyway here is the Peel “Pulpathon” (his words, not mine), in an edited (but not very much) version fleetingly uploaded by the elusive das Boy to the general internet consciousness last month… and salvaged for posterity by yours truly:

Pulp on John Peel, September 30th 1995

Plus, here’s a YouTube-d up session that the band recorded when they returned to Peel Acres six years later, around the time of swansong album We Love Life:

Jury is still out on whether Jarvis’ beard is a sly tip of the “respect” hat to Peelie’s though.

But as an extra extra bonus here’s a clip of Jarvis reminiscing in a kitchen about handing the early Pulp demo tape over to John in person that won the band that first Peel session back in 1981, when Jarvis was just 17.

Looks like he was sprouting the beard already.

(Press clipping cheekily filched from the more-than-thorough Pulp Wiki)

Oh, and WATCH THIS SPACE today for “Sheffield Peel Part II”… with a few tasty take-aways!

Spirit of Peel: Ted Chippington Greetings Cards

19 Oct


John Peel’s favourite brothel-creepered prematurely-balding deadpan comedian from Stoke-on-Trent was, as you may have seen around these parts a year or so ago, one Francis Smythe, better known to thee and me and Stewart Lee as the one and only Ted Chippington.

I would love to be able to offer you the fantastic gig Peel broadcast from the Royal Iris Ferry where Ted was lambasted as per usual by a (probably drunken) audience, but as that seems impossible to find (even Peter Hooton couldn’t help, and he was there!) instead I am going to give you a preview of my own Ted-inspired creations, the Ted Chippington greetings cards which, in an ideal world would be gracing the mantelpieces of the United Kingdom on various special days throughout the year, but in reality would probably sit in a cardboard box at the back of a newsagent’s somewhere.

For multiple Ted Chippington – related mirth head on over to Frankosonic’s blog (click just there) where I believe he has even posted something new in the last weeks or so.

Oh, and good evening.

John Peel: home truths

18 Oct


As is the case when one’s heroes are thrust into the tabloid spotlight for the wrong reasons, there are normally three options.

The first is to mount a vigorous, impassioned defence as to how your godlike idol could never have done such a thing, or that the very thing your godlike idol is alleged (or even has been proved) to have done is really “not all that”.

The second is to spurn your godlike idol for being charlatan and a fraud, sever all emotional ties with him or her, burn all related memorabilia you may have accrued during your blind years of ignorant fandom and publicly announce to all and sundry that he or she is no longer the apple of your heart’s desire but the evil object of your deepest disdain.

The third option – probably the most English and by far the easiest – is to “keep calm and carry on” as if nothing had happened.

The unpleasant – and quite probably genuine – revelations this month that John Peel had engaged an ongoing (3-month) improper physical relationship with an impressionable 15-year-old Black Sabbath fan (female), back in 1969 (when he was around the should-have-known-better age of 30) has given a lot of us pause for thought. Here was someone widely regarded as little short of a saint committing one of the most repugnant crimes known to society.

The whole grisly Jimmy Savile scenario, while shocking and stomach churning, and certainly one that affected far more people, many of whom who were far more vulnerable, was somehow less of a shock because it had been the subject of jokes and rumours for years. Like many of my peers I wrote to Jim’ll Fix It as a boy and unsurprisingly none of this went through my impressionable mind, but decades later it became patently obvious that this jingly-jangly, cigar-smoking, latterly be-tracksuited character was definitely more uncomfortably strange than eccentric. I was also quite fond of Gary Glitter in the 1970’s too. Then again, these were the times when some people were shocked at the suggestion that the Village People (or Freddie Mercury, or Rob Halford)  were gay, let alone that a pudgy Bacofoiled-up preening turkey was a paedophile (ostensibly heterosexual) sex tourist.

Abusing the trust and ingenuity of minors is WRONG, even if you consider that they are “gagging for it”. Even if they actually ARE. It’s always wrong, no two ways about it.

THIS girl was fifteen too, I’ll have you know

Peel was probably the nearest I had to a hero, and as The Stranglers once pondered… whatever happened to all the (real) heroes? When Peel’s affair with this underage girl began, he had just come out of an unhappy marriage to an American girl of a similar age (which was freely admitted by Peel in his autobiography, and, if I’m not mistaken, before), possibly as an altruistic gesture to get another emotionally screwed up young person free passage out of the country and back to the UK (or even to help his own immigrant status working in the US) or maybe just to legally take advantage of a young “bit of skirt” (to use the demodé parlance of the day).. who knows. Although this is pretty worrying behaviour by 21st century mores, back in the 60s and earlier, it was apparently a common practice in that part of the US. NO EXCUSE, I grant you, but that’s how it was, and probably why these “revelations” did not shock Britain to its core when they were made, either in Peel’s lifetime or immediately after Margrave of the Marshes was published.

It is at this juncture that I feel tempted to engage in my own rather irritating vice, and one John Peel probably has something to do with – quoting song lyrics. And curiously the lyrics of another “fallen idol” in many of my peers’ eyes: those of Steven Patrick Morrissey. For it was Mozzer who stated that “Fame, fame, fatal fame” could play “hideous tricks on the brain“, and who himself went on to win himself enemies and lose himself fans when his militant vegetarianism and easy-to-(mis)interpret-as-racism comments about England or the Chinese veered dangerously into the realms of self-parody.

I imagine early transatlantic fame had also played a few hideous tricks on Peel’s brain as well, and sad as it is to admit it, I imagine that it wasn’t until he met “the Pig”, his future wife Sheila, that his brain settled down and he evolved into the benign patron saint of alternative music that he was until so very recently best known for being. I do recall someone on a Peel documentary – a fellow DJ perhaps, or maybe even his brother – saying that marrying Sheila was the best thing Peel ever did, a far greater thing than giving so many amazing musicians a leg-up in the business (along with a handful even he might have been glad to forget). Maybe this was the true significance of what on the surface seemed like a mundane platitude.

John Peel did not register on my conciousness radar until the early 80s, when I was at secondary school, by which time he  had been a married man for almost a decade. “My” John Peel didn’t play Black Sabbath, Yes and T.Rex but Bogshed, Yeah Yeah Noh and T. Chippington. And electro, and dub and happy hardcore… and more.

Just as Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band bore little resemblance to Love Me Do.

He evolved.

The John Peel I “knew” would probably have been ashamed of playing some of the prog rock noodling that he aired in the 70s in the 80s or 90s.  Just as he was probably ashamed of certain other things that went on back then.

No excuse, but everyone makes mistakes, it’s just that some mistakes are a bit more serious than others. Or a lot more.

But being English, an unfortunate trait that both the late man and I share, we often tend to be fairly “matter-of-fact” about these things. The traditional English response to the classic opening conversation gambit “How are you?” is seldom “I’m fine!” but “Not bad ” “Can’t complain” or ” Mustn’t grumble“.

We’re not very good at the Tiger Woods-style mea culpa in dear old Blighty.

Just ask Nick Clegg.

Often a dignified silence is considered best, not unlike in the Vatican City.

The mighty fall..

Nonetheless, the whole “Dead Radio One DJs in Paedo Shocker” scandal (linking Peel to Jimmy Savile’s shuddersome predatory “activities” in a similar way to the way George W. Bush linked 9/11 with Saddam Hussein) also shows a continuing hypocrisy in British journalism, especially of the tabloid variety. Did anyone notice that the Daily Star turned Peel’s grim 3-month dalliance into THREE YEARS? Google it yourselves, I’m not linking to it here. And the Daily Mail, whose awe at such horror has turned it into the WORLD’S favourite – or maybe I should say “favorite”, there are so many Americanisms and US spellings in their damn hackery – online paper, while simultaneously printing stories about how Punky Brewster or the nine-year-old on the Cosby show is no longer jailbait, or that some 15-year old model is “looking good“.

Billy Bragg, whose gift of a mushroom biryani to John Peel famously opened the door to “fame”, probably addressed this tabloid hypocrisy best in this ditty “It Says Here“, when Auntie Beeb allowed him to say the word “tits” in front of Selina Scott and thousands of other breakfasting Britons in 1984:

If these accusations made against John Peel are true (and it looks like they probably are, given the acknowledgement of a sexual relationship in the unmistakable Peel vertically-inclined handwriting that appeared in the press) , then his actions cannot be defended or excused. The papers, just as they have ensured the words SAVILE ROW will no longer be associated with tailoring but with sexual predators at the BBC, have forever associated Peel with underage sex.

Of course it takes “two to tango”, and I would like to imagine it was she and not he who made the first move, but that is still no excuse. He was also unaware of any “impregnation” (despite the era of “free love” having  made its mark, I imagine a widespread awareness of “safe sex” was yet to hit a pre-AIDS-aware world), although he may have suspected as much he was never informed.

But the papers are always willing to place their godlike judgements.

In another situation where the man was less of a role-model figure, then maybe the girl might have been derided as “loose“.

Or have we forgotten Charlotte Church and her “voice of an angel”?

What good does dragging up the misdoings of the dead if it does not go hand in hand with an investigation of the living and the apparent  “anything goes so long as no-one knows” culture of the BBC and other institutions, and if it merely causes distress, grief and embarrassment to surviving spouses, children or other relatives?

All hands on decks

The regrettable prevalence of haterz and trolls in this (totally) wired world often means that even friends, Peel-friendly musicians or merely admirers of Peel’s championing of diversity and “the new” against the same-old-same-old are ignorantly tarred with the child-abuser-apologist brush unless they “disown” him.

It’s all so black and white… so “us and them“.

To end this rather atypical post I will just state that I will be “Keeping It Peel” on October 25th… although I am expecting to read a lot of tweets and the like saying “I’m Keeping it Peel today, I’m shaggin’ a 15 year old LOLZ” to go with the “Now I know why he loved Teenage Kicks” and “Gives a new meaning to the words ‘Peel Sessions’quips that pass for wit these days from people who usually find the notion of creating a false death rumour (to get their egos trending on Twitter) hilarious or who send threats of violence or death to footballers each time they fluff a penalty or whatever.

I’ll leave the last words – more or less – to Morrissey once again. Although these words could well be addressing himself, I’d like to redirect them to reference the post-Sheila, post reckless-wild years-John Peel, facing the wrath of the self-righteous media and the Frankie-Boyle-wannabes on the social networks. This was the John Peel I “knew”, or at least the John Peel I grew up with.

“It’s so easy to laugh,
           It’s so easy to hate,
                 It takes strength to be gentle and kind”

The song – “I Know It’s Over“, as you may have guessed – is sung from the grave, and seems to be appropriate for someone who was frequently described as both “gentle” and “kind” during the time I knew of him.

I also do feel that Peel himself – once he’d expunged his demons with the help of the family he created to replace the distant absent parents he had suffered in real life – would have been totally disgusted with his younger self, but that his matter-of-fact dismissal of his relationships with “groupies” etc was his stiff-upper-lip boarding school upbringing showing through.

After all, he was a devoted father of four, and regrettably, for some of us men, maturity only comes with parenthood.

So this coming October 25th we will be celebrating the good that Mr. Ravenscroft produced and how (as I’ve stated previously in these parts) the music made the people come together and how (musical) PREJUDICES were broken down thanks to his sterling work. Which is in no way a defence of child abuse, whatever a handful of haterz and trolls and tabloid journalists might want to make you believe.

Jarvis Cocker – a fellow Peel devotee – was once, you will recall, moved to invade the stage and make comical (read “obscene” in tabloidese) gestures to protest at Michael Jackson’s “god-complex” at the Brit Awards. He later explained that if Jacko had stuck to what he was good at (i.e.: making great pop songs like Billie Jean and Thriller and moonwalking) instead of trying to “heal the world” (and inviting small children to stay over at Neverland) he would still have been universally hailed as a genius instead of a fallen star in his later years.

John Peel, contrary bugger as ever, did most of the good in his life after the bad bits.

* Another, possibly better written piece on the subject here.

Thank you for your time. Normal service will resume as soon as possible.

Spirit of Peel: new music from a distant shore – Delfloria

11 Oct

John Peel, for all his Liverpudlian (ish) charm, was truly a man of the world. Seen above in traditional Mexican headgear accompanied by his night-time Radio One “Rhythm Pal” Kid “David” Jensen on Top of the Pops, Peel would regularly play music from places like Zimbabwe, Slovenia, Düsseldorf or Hull to name but four exotic locations from which he received records through the post or from specialist shops, and often subsequently invited them to Maida Vale to record a session.

Even though noted Japanophile Momus once opined that Peel didn’t care for Japanese pop , he did play Pizzicato Five and Cornelius (unless I am mistaken) and famously introduced Shonen Knife to a wider world. I also recall him playing a Japanese language version of Paul Hardcastle’s poptastic ‘Nam stutterer “19” when the song made number one on the UK Top 40. Polysics also recorded a session which, if the links still work, you can sample here.

Often when Peel came across a “foreign” record on his travels he had little or no information on the musicians responsible, which obviously didn’t stop him playing it. So, in keeping with his tradition of playing tracks from unknown bands singing in foreign languages, we present Delfloria from Japan.

Hailing from Osaka, Japan’s second city (not quite an eastern version of Birmingham, but… as you were), Delfloria appears to be a singer-songwriter with a guitar, vaguely influenced by Cornelius song structure and by Saint Etienne and Weller’s “English Rose”. She (or, indeed they) also follow Heavenly Records on Soundcloud, which might be a clue.

Have a listen to a track called “Tea”, why don’t you:

If you like what you hear there are a couple more songs on that Soundcloud page here, which also has a link to a website that seems to be broken.

Spirit of Peel: Cocteau Twins mixtape

9 Oct

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Of the vast panoply of fresh, exiting, exotic and sometimes just plain odd stuff played by John Peel in the 80’s (when the We Love All That ghetto blaster was most frequently “locked” to Radio One between the hours of nine p.m and midnight), certain bands became staples. Often these bands were white boys with guitars from somewhere north of Watford: The Smiths, The Fall, The Wedding Present, New Order etc. While Peel himself loved and championed these bands he often lamented that he would have preferred to see a few more reggae, electro, rap or African records in his listener-voted Festive Fifty at the end of each year instead of the same old same old which clogged up the charts each Yuletide, rather like bland daytime pop dominating the regular Top 40.

Another such white guitar-wielding combo from north of Watford was Cocteau Twins, fronted as any fule kno by Elizabeth “Liz” Frazer… a vocalist for whom the word “ethereal” was invented. I would love to wax (and, indeed, wane) lyrical on her original inventive lyrical and vocal style which would alternately harangue and caress the ears of the listener, but knowing that this fellow on the official (?) Cocteau Twins website has done a far better job than I ever could, just click the link and read his in-depth analysis in your own sweet time.

In 1991 Peel even scrapped that year’s Festive Fifty due to the predictability of said hit parade, although he eventually caved in to his disappointed listeners and belatedly broadcast a “Phantom Fifty” in 1993, playing just two songs (or was it just one?) A WEEK. The whole chart has been lovingly collated and sewn together by venerable home taping curator Rico here, with bits of Peelie chatting before and after the tracks as befits the occasion.

But back to Cocteau Twins, who made an earth-shattering SEVENTEEN appearances over the lifespan of the Festive Fifty and were the fifth most popular act in the eyes and ears of those who sent their postcards to Peel and Walters for the chart (we can safely presume The Fall were sitting “pretty” in pole position), and a chance discovery made on the interweb this morning that I just HAD to share… a two hour (ish) Cocteau Twins mixtape, with talky bits and everything! Compiled and – nay – mixed by one Silinder, it’s a mix (an actual mix) of well-known and more obscure “cuts”… and you can even download it if you’re fast enough. Hats off, not to Harper, but to Silinder… and enjoy the (ahem) sonic cathedrals and celestial castles of Elizabeth Frazer, Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde:

Will you be Keeping it Peel? New music alert forthcoming!

5 Oct

Will YOU be Keeping it Peel this 25th of October?

As is common practice we at We Love All That Towers certainly will, with a special treat lined up for the day itself, looking back at something or other that appeared on the late, great man’s Radio One show.

But to get you in the mood this month, we’ll also be posting some new music by new bands / musicians who sadly will now never get the chance to record a Peel Session or get their stuff played on his show.

Because although we love to reminisce about the vast panoply of music and musicians Peel helped break through to mainstream success, “inky” music paper kudos or just a small cult following, a lot of his raison d’etre (as his beloved Belgians may well have said, well…  the Walloon variety anyway) was to give an airing to those new artists he felt didn’t have a place on daytime radio – from The Faces, The Pink Floyd and the Pistols to Half Man Half Biscuit, Misty In Roots and happy hardcore.

Peel didn’t live to see what M.E.S. may have called “dubstep’s dream debased“, but he was playing that now-oh-so-ubiquitous genre in its infancy before his untimely death in 2004. Artists that may now be 6Music staples or commercial radio classics who were once considered too “weird” or “different” for airplay. Even Public Enemy who just scored a top five UK hit with a five-year old song were given a first UK airing on Peel’s programme (and Peel got a back cover credit on their album as a thank you).

Madonna once sang that “music makes the people come together” while going on to emote (in a faux-patois) that “music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel“. Peel played music that made the spotty indie kid, the spliffed-out raggamuffin, the wide-eyed raver, the lank-haired deathcore aficionado and lovers of all genres sit up and open their ears, not just to reflections of their own musical preferences but to a wider sonic “church” (and a fair few sonic cathedrals, but let’s not go there now).

Obviously, We Love All That is no John Peel, but this October – allowing for the usual distractions – we will try and post some new music from people you probably haven’t heard before, partially as a hat-tip to the man upstairs.

So, as I said around this time last year… keep ’em Peeled!

Home taping didn’t kill music (Happy Birthday John)

30 Aug

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Today, 30th August 2012, would have been John Peel’s 73rd birthday.

73 isn’t a particular number of note (his wife had a collection of 78s as I recall, or was it her pick of his 78s.. not sure..) but it is always worth celebrating the life of the man who in his own way fomented the eclectic tastes of so many of us and who, for people of a certain age (my age and older, I suppose) who lived out their student years before the so-called interweb, was sometimes the sole or at least the initial conduit into a world of music outside the traditional realms of Top of the Pops, although of course many of the musicians he gave an initial airing to would go on to be staples of such programmes.. but that’s another story.

Just as many today would scour music blogs and cheeky content sites trying to find interesting new-to-me music for no money, their counterparts of the 1980s (and before) would sit listening to John Peel’s programme at 10.00 pm on the one-time-wunnerful Radio One (“275 – 285, and stereo V-H-F”) with sweaty fingers paused over rec and play. Downloading a podcast from 6Music or listening to Zane Lowe or whoever on the iPlayer doesn’t really match up in the “magic memory” stakes, however fantastic Stuart Maconie’s musical taste is (and it is, believe me). And just as we would tape the songs off Peel’s programme (or in some cases, just leave the thing running and tape the whole programme), young men and women up and down the country would be inspired to start their own bands, record a demo tape and send it to the BBC for him to hear. Some with the idea of becoming professional musicians, others just keen to meet the approval of their revered tastemaker. Peel usually listened to these tapes in his car while driving to Broadcasting House, or wherever, and once quipped that he imagined many listeners imagined he would be more than happy to meet his maker in a road accident while trying to decipher a cassette inlay. Something he made quite clear was not the case!

Tapes were central to John Peel’s BBC shows, whether they were specially-recorded ones he received in the post from bands, African cassettes sent from foreign parts (like.. er.. Africa) or the cratefuls of TDKs and BASFs that were used to record his shows by listeners like me (and quite possibly by you as well).

Which leads on to the tapes themselves.  Thanks to the web you’re reading this on now, collaborative projects like the fantastic John Peel Wiki compile months and months of Ravenscroft-selected broadcasts, from semi-muffled recordings of  The Perfumed Garden and Top Gear (the pre-Clarkson, even pre-Woollard Top Gear – the “gear” in question probably being a drug reference than anything motor-related) where the great man spoke in what seems a fairly posh-but-weedy voice to crystal-clear digital DAB recordings in the 21st century… recordings of the wise-but-sufficiently-with-it-but-not-embarrassingly-so dad we never had or the one we would have liked to evolve into ourselves one day.

The equally wonderful John Peel Archive, who are currently working their way though Peelie’s “hallowed shelves” a hundred records at a time (100 records per letter, A-Z), have also been keeping their own collaborative documentation of those cassettes on which we tapers recorded Peel’s shows. I myself thought I was being incredibly original in calling one of my “taped off the radio” cassettes “Mixed Peel” until I saw that someone on the Peel Archive Pinterest page had posted photos of his own collection including one with the same name (along with an “Orange Peel”, an “Emma Peel” and so on).

So here are some of my “original” custom-made Festive Fifty cassette inlays from the mid to late 80s, my “golden era” of listening to John Peel. These were the days of photocopied fanzines, of Rotring pens and Letraset, of Pritt Stick and typewriters that jammed. A colour photocopy was a thing of wonder, and nobody owned their own printer. In fact, mention the word “printer” to a sixteen-year-old schoolkid in the 1980s and they’d probably think of orange xerox-mecca Prontaprint or Mr Munnings out of Trumpton.

Looking back on these lovingly-prepared covers (who said “sad bastard” back there?) I really don’t think I could have imagined making such an effort for any of Peel’s contemporaries, even though I regularly listened to Janice Long, Kid Jensen and Annie Nightingale (as well as Mike Allen on Capital and other stuff) and enjoyed most of the music. I no longer own a working tape recorder as various Walkmen, ghettoblasters and tape-to-tape separates have long given up the ghost. Occasionally I dip into the very programmes that live in the cases you see here, recorded by someone else at the same time I was listening (these shows – at least to my knowledge – were never re-broadcast on Radio One) and digitised by that same person or those same persons with more technical flair than myself.

Home taping didn’t kill music, you see. It saved it. For posterity.

Here are some links to some site with shows originally preserved on tape:

Now to start digging around for something for Keeping It Peel day, October’s not that far away!

Remember, remember, the 25th of October…

20 Oct

We’ll be Keeping It Peel next Tuesday.

But here’s a tune to play in the meanwhile…

Grinderswitch -Pickin’ The Blues (download)